Jersey residential property jargon
Property – this can refer to both “immovable” and “movable” property.
Immovables – immovable property is land and everything attached to it and falls into three categories:
- Freehold – this is the most common way in which land and houses are owned in Jersey and can be owned subject to burdens that have been secured against it, including mortgages, leases and tenancies and servitudes, such as rights of way and life interests.
- Leasehold – many commercial properties, and some residential properties, are held under “contract” leases, passed before Court for a period of more than 9 years. “Paper” leases of fewer than 9 years are not passed before Court.
- Flying freehold – this generally applies to flats but occasionally covers commercial units, usually in mixed developments. When a flying freehold sales takes place, the unit conveyed is described as a “lot” or “share”, comprising both the unit itself and an interest in the common parts of the property. Jersey immovable property that can be mortgaged is a “corpus fundi” (a separate and distinct parcel of land. The 1991 flying freehold law created a statute whereby flying freehold lots are “corpus fundi”).
- Some rights are also classed as immovable property:
- Fiefs – a type of feudal lordship
- Rentes – an ancient form of charge or mortgage on land
- Simple conventional hypothecs – a charge secured on land
- Usufruct – a life interest in land
Title – the manner of acquiring an interest in land in Jersey Law is different to that in England. Title to (or ownership of) Immovable Property is acquired by passing a contract by means of swearing of an Oath publicly before the Royal Court on a Friday afternoon. Since 1602, all conveyances must be registered in the Public Registry. Contracts used to be written in French but are now in English.
Public Registry – as mentioned above, the conveyance of immovable Jersey residential property in Jersey is a matter of public record and the purchaser’s title is demonstrated by a copy of the contract (or deed) kept in the Public Registry. Charges (mortgages) are also registered in the Public Registry. Historically the contracts were copied into large books but are now accessible through an online system called Pride. There is no guaranteed title to property available in Jersey, as with the UK Land Registry. It is therefore necessary for the lawyer acting for a buyer or lender to check title to ensure that the Vendor does indeed own the Jersey residential property and is able to convey the same and, further, whether there are any charges registered on the property that must be repaid and cancelled.
Co-Ownership – there are two ways in which a property can be co-owned – a tenancy in common and a joint tenancy. If owned by persons as tenants in common then each person owns a specific fraction of the right to the property – that is the specific fraction of the sale proceeds rather than a right to a particular part of the property. On death the interest passes to the person’s estate. The interest of a joint tenant passes to the surviving tenant and not to his estate. Spouses generally purchase as joint tenants and express words must be used in the contract to express this, failing which the parties are deemed to hold the property as tenants in common.
Regardless of how the property is co-owned, a mortgage is secured on the land (or corpus fundi) and so is taken over the interests of all the co-owners, whether they be joint tenants or tenants in common.
Movables – movable property is anything that is not immovable property, including money, insurance policies, stocks and shares, personal belongings and intangible rights that can be enforced.
As many flats in Jersey are acquired by share transfer in a Company that owns the land and building, these shares are dealt with as movable property. The Articles of Association of the property holding company confer upon the shareholder exclusive rights of occupation of a specific flat and his/her obligations to contribute towards the Company’s expenses.
Security Interest – if you buy a share transfer flat with a mortgage, the mortgage will be secured over the shares by Security Interest Agreement. This enables a Lender to take a variety of “movables” as security for a loan. In the case of shares, the Share Certificate will be held by the lender as security and the Security Interest registered on the Jersey Financial Services Commission Register.